Friday, the Pistons’ loss to Chicago was overshadowed for a good reason: Dennis Rodman’s jersey retirement. Sunday’s Celtics loss was back to the norm: overshadowed by the detrimental conduct of a player.
Seventy six games into the season and Pistons coach John Kuester is still talking about a “growing process,” specifically in reference to a man who is 25-years-old and has been in the league four years.
Rodney Stuckey didn’t play against Boston, reportedly (according to the Free Press … kind of and confirmed by Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News) due to the fact that he was asked to re-enter Saturday and refused. Kuester was asked about it in the post-game press conference and predictably gave his typical non-answer. Who knows what Stuckey’s issue is, but his clashes with Kuester are now a relatively common occurrence. He isn’t on the same page as his coach, and that’s understandable. Kuester hasn’t done a good job with this team. But Stuckey is a professional, he’s a veteran player even if he is still young and he just flat out hasn’t been a consistent player through the entire course of his career. His upside is undeniable, but he’s dangerously close to the point when discussions about a player’s “upside” quickly turn into conclusions about never living up to potential.
Joe Dumars has publicly reiterated his commitment to Stuckey a few times this season. Part of the reason he does that is he has to. It’s not exactly a sound strategy for the GM to go around criticizing his own players. But hopefully, it’s just typical GM speak by Dumars. The Pistons can’t trust Stuckey to be a pillar of this team. First of all, he just hasn’t played well enough to be that guy. His improvements in four seasons have been extremely incremental. There are constant excuses made for why he hasn’t become the player Dumars thought he would. The constant clashes with Kuester are a good indicator of why that is: Stuckey is immature. Professionals simply don’t refuse to re-enter a game, particularly a close game with the legends of your franchise in attendance watching.
And secondly, don’t these incidents really call Stuckey’s intelligence into question some? He’s a player with immense physical gifts who is heading into free agency. In the preseason, he talked of his readiness for a breakout year. He was given the starting point guard spot and the bulk of the minutes at that position for about half of the season, yet the breakout never arrived. He shifted to shooting guard and still played inconsistently. And on top of that, according to Goodwill’s article, this is at least the third incident of outright insubordination involving Stuckey this season. What team is going to invest big money in a guy who has not yet lived up to his potential and on top of that, has been a difficult personality to deal with? I certainly hope it’s not this team.
Teams often deal with difficult personalities because the tradeoff is their on-court production is worth any headaches they provide in the locker room. Stuckey is a middling NBA player who is not worth the issues he’s reportedly caused this season.
Oh yeah, there was a game
When Boston shoots 64 percent and ‘shots’ like this go in, no one is going to beat the Celtics. The Pistons did some nice things though. They forced 19 Celtics turnovers by exhibiting good hands defensively. Will Bynum was a bit sloppy with the ball and didn’t create as many shots for others as you’d like your point guard to, but he was constantly in the lane and scored 24 points against one of the top defenders in the league, Rajon Rondo. The Pistons built an early lead then had a terrible opening 10 minutes in the second quarter, but closed the half nicely with a 9-0 run to cut the lead to one at the half.
The third quarter once again doomed the team as the Celtics’ superior ball movement created open threes for Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett got free inside and the team quickly built a double-digit lead while the Pistons struggled to shoot the ball. Bynum and Charlie Villanueva spurred a couple of mini-runs to get back within single digits, but the Pistons never really threatened again.